Hard work, tough love turn Ar’Mond Davis into Division I prospect

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For young athletes hoping to earn a Division I scholarship, there’s no one set path to that goal. While many take the seemingly straightforward track from high school to college, the experiences on the way are anything but similar. And then there are those whose life experiences result in a more circuitous journey, with the need for positive influences and an unwillingness to give up being even greater.

That’s been the case for Ar’Mond Davis, who dealt with tough situations throughout his time in high school. From dealing with a living situation that was at times uncertain and having his coaches pick him up at a local mall so as to keep his issues private, to now being the focus of many major college programs’ recruiting efforts. It’s safe to say that Ar’Mond Davis has come a long way.

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While Davis’ solid freshman season at the College of Southern Idaho led to his being selected to play in last month’s JucoRecruiting.com Elite 80 West Showcase in Las Vegas, the journey began in Tacoma, Washington. Tacoma may not get the national pub that Seattle does but the city hasn’t lacked for high-level basketball talent in recent years, with Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley being the most noteworthy products who have gone from Tacoma to the Division I level and then on to the professional ranks, where they currently play alongside each other in the Boston Celtics back court.

For Davis to keep his chances of joining that list alive, he had to overcome a set of circumstances that can derail a young person and make their dreams unreachable.

“Sometimes just having to worry about where I’d stay or what I was going to eat, stuff like that,” Davis told NBC Sports during a phone interview, and it’s understandable that a person would be a bit guarded, not wanting to reveal too much to outsiders when it comes to family hardships.

With the unpredictability of his life at the time, having a routine he could rely on was incredibly valuable to Davis and that was (and still is) something he could find in basketball. The security of being able to pick up a ball and work on his game aided Davis as a youngster, and that only strengthened with his move from Lincoln High School to Foss High School in the spring of his junior year. There he would play for coach Mike Cocke, who looked to provide both the encouragement and discipline his newest addition needed after spending the last couple of seasons working to find neutralize Davis one the court.

“He’s an inner-city kid from a single-parent household with his mother raising him and his older brother being his role model,” Cocke said. “The thing he lacked when he showed up at our school was discipline within the classroom. Some stuff at home probably could have been a little tighter than it was, and that hurt him a little bit.

“Because by the time he showed up at Foss, his dreams of playing Division I college basketball right after high school would have been pretty hard to achieve. My biggest thing was I knew the talent and the kind of kid he was; he was never a bad person, he just never had a male role model to instill some discipline in him and make him a better person on and off the floor.”

Davis’ time at Foss was successful on multiple levels. Not only was he a standout for the team there, but it also led to his joining the Portland-based I-5 Elite grassroots program in the summer prior to his senior year. Running the program was head coach Kumbeno Memory, who played against Cocke at the junior college level, and that connection ultimately led to the high school coach knowing that there was another mentor willing and able to provide Davis with the help he needed in basketball and beyond to reach his dreams.

“Cocke reached out to Beno and said that he had a kid who was looking for a positive situation,” said I-5 Elite coach Chris Foss. “A situation where he could not only get some tough love but some guidance as well, which was something we were able to provide.”

And it didn’t take Davis, who originally played for the Team ACCESS program, very long to make an impression on his new I-5 Elite teammates. As a matter of fact, that would occur in Davis’ first practice with the team.

source:
I-5 Elite Basketball

“I just remember that first day of practice he was kind of a quieter kid initially, a little more reserved and he let his actions speak for him,” Foss noted. “We play a really fundamental brand of basketball but we don’t have the high-flyers that everybody else has. That day, we don’t normally do it, we started out with a “3-on-2, 2-on-1” drill; we normally do a lot out of the secondary break. They’re going down, someone threw him a pass and he just elevated, cocked the ball back and ‘BOOM.’

“We’re really high on kids talking on the court, having a high IQ and a motor, which are traits that we’ve been able to have success with and have kids overachieve. At the start we’re like, ‘OK, real quiet kid,’ and then he did that and it was like ‘the gym’s woken up.’ This was a little bit different than what we were used to, but from day one he was willing to buy in to what we were trying to do and could just tell he was a really sincere kid.”

While Davis flourished with his new program, there were also signs that his experiences weren’t in line with those of the average child. With that in mind, coaches looked to do the best they could to ensure that Davis understood that they would be there to help him out whenever he needed assistance.

“To be honest, I wasn’t as well-versed in what he was going through until we played in a tournament in Bellevue (Washington) to start the July live period,” Foss noted. “We practiced in Portland the week before and went up there the following Thursday (the day before the event started) and he had us pick him up at the mall instead of going to pick him up at his house.

“Just kind of being private with everything he was going through at the time,” Foss continued. “Just finding out as things went on, sitting down and having talks with him or hearing about it from Cocke or other people who were close to him, and we realized that he doesn’t have it like everyone else does. And it kind of showed why he did some of the things that he did, but our immediate and only response has been to give him a ton of love.”

After averaging just over 26 points per game as a senior at Foss High School, Davis went through the process of choosing a junior college that would best prepare him to make the jump to a four-year school not only athletically but academically as well. While there were initial thoughts of remaining close to home for junior college, Davis ultimately took the challenge of joining a College of Southern Idaho (CSI) program that annually ranks among the best in the country.

“In the recruiting process he was actually one of the easier guys to recruit,” CSI assistant Brock Morris said. “And what I mean by that is, we get a lot of high-level guys here and a lot of guys need to hear what you can do for them. With Ar’Mond we were able to challenge him, ask if he’s willing to compete with the best or not and he said he wanted to take on that opportunity. That, to me, stuck out.

“This isn’t a guy shying away from [the competition]. He came off the bench last year, was our second-leading scorer and didn’t complain at all. I think that translated back to his recruitment.”

On a deep roster Davis made the most of his playing time in 2014-15, averaging 10.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game in helping CSI win 31 games and make the trip to Hutchinson Junior College in Kansas that junior college programs aim for every season. There are multiple reasons why Davis was able to play as well as he did as a freshman. Of course, there’s the talent and the desire to advance in his basketball career.

But in talking with Cocke, Foss and Morris there was a label that each felt fit Davis well: gym rat. And not the kind of self-proclaimed gym rat who sends out proclamations of “no days off” on social media, only for their in-game production to not be on par with that label. Davis has put in the work, with his coaches being witnesses to his development.

“Absolutely. He’s always been that way,” Cocke said. “It doesn’t really matter what time of day it is, send him a text saying ‘Hey, the gym’s open’ and he’ll show up and work out. He always wants to play, and if he’s not playing with us he’s playing at a local gym by his apartment, or he’s up in Seattle just trying to find a gym to work on his game or get a run in.”

Those years of using basketball as both a way to forget about the hand life dealt him and a path to a better life have paid off for Davis, who’s expected to be a leader for his CSI team as a sophomore. There’s also the recruiting aspect, with programs such as Alabama, Penn State, Memphis (he’ll visit there the second weekend in September), Missouri and Texas A&M either offering scholarships or in the case of A&M showing interest (A&M eventually did offer Davis).

With his ability to score at multiple levels and a desire to improve defensively as well, Davis can be an impact addition to a Division I program when he makes that move. Thanks to the combination of coaches who refused to let him quit and his own work ethic, Davis is well on his way to making strides as both an athlete and a young man.

“Coach Cocke was really helpful, because he’d help guide me and make sure I kept going in the right direction,” Davis said. “My I-5 Elite coach was really helpful too. There would be times when I’d think about giving up, but they kept on me to make sure I kept working to be successful.”

No. 1 South Carolina tops fifth-ranked UConn 81-77

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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HARTFORD, Conn. – In a rematch of last season’s national championship game, South Carolina came out on top again over UConn thanks to a strong fourth quarter by Aliyah Boston.

Geno Auriemma stepping onto the court to spike a water botte, that helped them, too.

Boston scored 23 of her 26 points in the second half, including 14 in the final period, to help the No. 1 Gamecocks beat the fifth-ranked Huskies 81-77 on Sunday in front of a sellout crowd.

“Aliyah is just relentless, she plays relentlessly although she had a subpar (first half) as far as statistics, she impacted the game,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “She doesn’t get flustered. she knew she didn’t play up to her standards. What does she do? Raise her standard. Bad first half or not she’s going to continue to play.”

While there wasn’t as much on the line as the title game last April, there was a high intensity to it, including Auriemma getting the technical late in the fourth quarter after getting frustrated by the officiating enough to throw the bottle.

“I thought there were a lot of things being overlooked. It was difficult for some of our guys to move out on the floor,” said Auriemma, UConn’s coach. “I didn’t think it was one key play, I just couldn’t keep quiet any longer. It was bad. … Dumb mistake by me. Bad decision.”

The Gamecocks (23-0) have won 29 consecutive games since losing to Kentucky in the SEC Tournament title game last year. They’ve won four of the past five meetings with the Huskies, including a victory in the NCAA championship game last season. That ended UConn’s perfect 11-0 record in title games.

“This was a national championship-like game. I wanted us to feel what it takes to do this,” Staley said.

Now South Carolina finally has a win in Connecticut after winning there before.

South Carolina used its size again to top the Huskies. The 6-foot-7 Kamilla Cardoso and Boston, the reigning AP Player of the Year helped the Gamecocks have a 42-30 advantage on the boards, including grabbing 25 offensive rebounds.

Boston finished with 11 rebounds for the 76th double-double of her career. Cardoso added 17 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.

With her team leading by four in the fourth quarter, Boston took over. She scored the next 12 points for South Carolina, two of those came when Auriemma tossed the water onto the court and was charged with the technical foul.

Boston hit the two free throws. She then hit a jumper, a 3-pointer and another basket to give the Gamecocks a double-digit advantage.

“I’m kind of in attack mode. In the second half I made more shots then I did in the first half,” Boston said.

Despite seeing their starting backcourt foul out, the short-handed Huskies (21-3) wouldn’t go away. They whittled the lead down to 80-77 with 10.8 seconds left on Aubrey Griffin’s three-point play.

Raven Johnson hit the first of two free throws a second later and UConn couldn’t convert to close out the game

“They have a lot to feel good about once they get past what it feels like to lose,” Auriemma said. “I feel better at 3 o’clock today then I did at 12 o’clock. I didn’t know how we’d respond. I knew we’d play hard and compete like hell. I didn’t know who was going to make a big play, who was going to get a big rebound, make a big shot. I know now more than I did at noon and I feel better about my team.”

Aaliyah Edwards led UConn with 25 points.

UConn got off to a solid start, outscoring South Carolina 25-14 in the opening period. Lou Lopez Senechal capped the strong start, hitting a running 3-pointer just before the buzzer.

South Carolina asserted its size in the second quarter with Cardoso scoring 11 points in the period. Her putback with just under 10 seconds left tied the game at 34 heading into the half.

TIP-INS:

UConn is 8-10 against No. 1 teams all time. … The Huskies are still missing guards Azzi Fudd (knee), Caroline Ducharme (concussion) as well as Paige Bueckers (knee) and Ice Brady (knee), who are both out for the season. … Many former UConn players were in the crowd including Sue Bird, Jen Rizzotti, and Napheesa Collier sitting a few rows behind the Huskies bench. … South Carolina has gone 41-6 against ranked teams since the start of the 2019-20 season.

DEPTH:

The Gamecocks reserves outscored UConn’s 37-0. The Huskies only had eight healthy players.

UP NEXT:

South Carolina: visits Auburn on Thursday before a showdown with No. 3 LSU on Feb. 12

UConn: visits Marquette on Wednesday.

No. 16 Duke tops No. 9 Notre Dame 57-52 for 1st place in ACC

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Celeste Taylor scored 14 points and No. 16 Duke came from behind for a 57-52 victory at No. 9 Notre Dame on Sunday to move into first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Trailing for most of the game’s first 28 minutes, the Blue Devils (20-3, 10-2 ACC) took the lead for good in the final minutes of the third quarter to knock off the Fighting Irish (18-4, 9-3) before a sellout crowd of 9,149 at Purcell Pavilion.

A jumper by Jordyn Oliver put Duke ahead 45-44 with 1:20 left in the third quarter and the visitors never trailed after that.

“I’m proud of my players for finishing the game,” Duke coach Kara Lawson said.

Duke led 48-46 going into the fourth quarter after trailing Notre Dame by as many as five points in the third quarter. A steal by Elizabeth Balogun in the final 15 seconds helped seal the win.

A 13-4 run helped Notre Dame take its biggest lead of the first half for either team at 31-23. The Irish led 31-25 at halftime.

“We fell short, but you know it’s a part of our growth,” Irish coach Niele Ivey said. “It’s part of our journey.”

Taylor scored 10 points for Duke in the second half. Balogun and Shayeann Day-Wilson finished with 9 points apiece and Taya Corosdale and Oliver had 8 each.

Maddy Westbeld, playing all 40 minutes, led Notre Dame with 15 points, Sonia Citron scored 14 and Olivia Miles added 11.

“She’s one of the best players in the country,” Lawson said of Miles, who logged just over 31 minutes. “We didn’t have to go against her for a quarter of the game.”

COLD SHOOTING

Neither team shot well in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame made just 2 of 13 shots from the floor and Duke was 3 of 13.

“We just talked about staying disciplined defensively and making it hard,” Lawson said. “I though we challenged shots.”

Ivey also addressed that stretch of the game.

“Some of those opportunities were in transition and we didn’t get a chance to capitalize,” she said. “We did a good job of finding the open person, we just didn’t nail the shots.”

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Led by Corosdale and Oliver, Duke enjoyed a 21-4 edge in reserve scoring.

“I’m really proud of my players off the bench,” Lawson said. “Jordyn Oliver was really good.

“We needed to have that depth in scoring. Not only did they score but they were efficient from the field.”

The Blue Devils’ bench shot 9 of 15.

SHORT-HANDED IRISH

Notre Dame graduate student Dara Mabrey was lost for the season in the Jan. 22 game against Virginia.

Lauren Ebo, a 6-foot-4 graduate student, has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury.

“Ebo does a great job of being a precence on the block with her size and ability to rebound and play post defense,” Ivey said. “She’s been working really hard (at rehabilitation).

“It’s kind of day to day.”

BIG PICTURE

Notre Dame: The Irish fell out of a first-place tie with Duke in the ACC standings.

Duke: The Blue Devils are now alone atop the conference standings.

UP NEXT

Notre Dame: The Irish meet Pitt in two of the next four contests – on Thursday in South Bend and on Sunday, Feb. 19 at Pittsburgh.

Duke: The only regular-season meeting between the Blue Devils and Boston College is Thursday at Boston.

Colorado State sorry for ‘Russia’ chant at Ukrainian player

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Colorado State has apologized for a group of fans who chanted “Russia” at a player on an opposing team who is from Ukraine during Saturday’s game.

Utah State’s Max Shulga is from Kyiv and was shooting free throws when TV cameras picked up the chant from the student section during the game in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago.

“On behalf of Colorado State, we apologize to the student-athlete and Utah State. This is a violation of our steadfast belief in the Mountain West Sportsmanship Policy and University Principles of Community,” Colorado State said in a statement.

“Every participant, student, and fan should feel welcomed in our venues, and for something like this to have occurred is unacceptable at Colorado State.”

Utah State beat CSU 88-79.

Duke edges North Carolina 63-57 behind Roach, Lively

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
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DURHAM, N.C. — Jeremy Roach scored 20 points, Dereck Lively II had career highs of eight blocks and 14 rebounds and Duke defeated North Carolina 63-57.

Kyle Filipowski added 14 points and Tyrese Proctor 11 for the Blue Devils (17-6, 8-4 ACC), who won their third straight and beat the Tar Heels (15-8, 7-5) for the first time in three meetings, including in last year’s Final Four in the NCAA Tournament.

North Carolina’s Armando Bacot had 14 points and 10 rebounds for his 63rd career double-double, extending his own program record, Leaky Black had 13 points and 10 rebounds, Caleb Love added 12 points and RJ Davis 11.

Roach scored eight of Duke’s final 10 points, including the last four after Lively’s tiebreaking dunk with 1:35 to go. North Carolina missed its last five shots, including a trio of 3-point tries in the final minute.

The Blue Devils’ six-point winning margin matched their largest lead.

Neither team reached 40% shooting but Duke outscored North Carolina 20-2 off fast breaks and was 11 of 15 at the free-throw line to only 2 of 3 for the Tar Heels.

The stat sheet was fairly even at halftime when Duke led 33-32 except for one telling stat, a 16-0 advantage for the Blue Devils on fast-break points as they scored repeatedly off transition.

A 14-5 run erased a seven-point North Carolina lead — the Tar Heels’ largest — and put Duke in front 26-24 with just under four minutes left in the half. A Proctor 3-pointer broke the fourth tie before Bacot cut it to the one-point margin at the break. Bacot had 12 points in the first half. Roach had 10.

The game matched two men who played in this rivalry and are now leading the programs they played for: first-year Duke coach Jon Scheyer and Hubert Davis, in his second year for North Carolina.

The teams will meet again in their regular-season finale at Chapel Hill on March 4. Duke plays at No. 23 Miami on Monday. North Carolina is at Wake Forest on Tuesday.

No. 13 Iowa State rolls past eighth-ranked Kansas 68-53

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
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AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes scored all 15 of his points in the second half as No. 13 Iowa State rolled past No. 8 Kansas 68-53 on Saturday.

Osun Osunniyi added 13 for the Cyclones (16-6, 7-3 Big 12), who stayed within at least a game of front-running Texas in the conference standings. Tamin Lipsey added eight rebounds and 10 assists.

“Today, we came out and played desperate,” Holmes said.

Jalen Wilson led the Jayhawks (18-5, 6-4) with 26 points for his sixth straight game with at least 20. No other Kansas player had more than 8 points.

“It’s not a formula for success for us,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “We need balance from our starting five. If one guy feels like he’s got to go do it all on his own, it crashes the offense.”

The Cyclones led for all but 1:14 of the game, building a 34-16 scoring edge in the paint. Kansas struggled early, making just two of their first 10 shots and committing 11 turnovers in the first 20 minutes.

Iowa State shot 46% for the game.

“From the beginning, we gave them some easy buckets,” Wilson said. “That’s something we’ve struggled with (defensively) … the easiest way to get comfortable is easy buckets, layups, stuff like that.”

Iowa State was up 33-21 at the break.

Holmes missed all four shots in the first half, but after getting sick at halftime, he helped the Cyclones stretched the lead to 42-31 early in the second half with a 3-pointer and layup.

“I felt a little nauseous the whole day,” he said. “I’ve been dealing with some sickness over the past week and a half.”

BIG PICTURE

Kansas: The Jayhawks dropped to 3-4 during a stretch in which six of its seven opponents were ranked. The lone unranked foe was Kentucky. … Kansas committed a season-high 20 turnovers Saturday. … The loss to Iowa State was Self’s first in five meetings with second-year Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger.

Iowa State: Improved to 12-0 at home this season and 5-0 in the Big 12. It was also the Cyclones’ fifth win over a top-10 opponent in the past two seasons.

UP NEXT

Kansas: Hosts No. 10 Texas on Monday.

Iowa State: Travels to West Virginia on Wednesday.